Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Getting too Personal

White and Zahay (2008, p 41) caution about getting too personal in our communications with publics, "extending beyond friendly recognition to suggest an inappropriate level of familiarity." If we over-tailor our messages, those messages may be perceived as manipulative (p 42). Can we personalize our message and how? The research by White and Zahay (p 48) suggests that explicit justification should accompany personalized messages.

"In contrast, when highly distinctive messages are unavoidable or otherwise compelling from the firm’s perspective in initial exchanges, our results caution against sending these messages in the absence of an explicit justification."

Another problem with personalization deals with customer knowledge of their own preferences. Simonson (2005, p33) relates that including personalized options in the offer can result in up-selling, but this depends on the stability of customer preferences and their insight into those preferences.

What Simonson labels Category 3 customers, those having stable preferences but lacking insight into those preferences, can be problematic regarding personalization. Such a customer profile, according to Simonson (p 34) is prone to misunderstand customized offerings leading to dissatisfaction.

Even with substantial and correct demographic and psychographic data, customized offers can backfire with Category 3, as Simonson notes:

“Consequently, these customers may mistakenly accept customized offers or choice
criteria that do not really fit their preferences, which leads to dissatisfaction.”


White, TB and D. Zahay (2008). Getting too personal: Reactance to highly personalized email solicitations. Springer.

Simonson, I (January 2005). Determinants of Customers’ Responses to Customized Offers:Conceptual Framework and Research Propositions. Journal of Marketing

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